Grant it –When my mother was still alive–I remember her always commenting on how she was more tired and more sick than I ever was. You see–my mother had been thru 2 cancer diagnosises and several treatments and surgeries before she passed in 2011. Don’t get me wrong– – cancer is horrible and this post is no means a way to belittle that fact. And this is no means an excuse to never care for anyone. However, recently I noticed how cancer survivors, no matter if they are sick because of their treatment or because of the common cold, they appear to always be defined by their cancer diagnosis. So I wanted to bring up the idea that our culture seems to live by be illnesses we obtain.
Picture this– you survive breast cancer. You go thru treatment after treatment, chemo and radiation and finally you get that clean bill of health. But 6 months later you get that nasty bug that’s going around and are sick for a few days, maybe more because of your cancer compromised immune system. And while you’re gone–people don’t say “hope you feel better” or bring chicken soup-but mention “your a survivor” and push this idea that either 1) you’ve overcome cancer and therefore can overcome anything or 2) every time you got sick it’s a scary thing to think that it might be cancer again.
We need to stop living our lives as though our illnesses control us. Again, let me emphasize this is a no means to belittle cancer. My mother had it and it’s a terrible disease, causing severe pain and sometimes side effects that last an entire lifetime. But this is not the excuse you’re the reason for every time someone gets sick. My mother several times to use her illness to define how she felt every day. This was not helpful for me as her daughter – because when I actually got sick, no one was there to make me feel better. My mother was either always more sick than me or couldn’t take care of me like she once did. That is not fair to both my mother or I. This went to the point of when I had gallbladder surgery and needed recovery time, I needed an additional week because my mother got in a minor (emphasize minor) car accident while trying to pick me up from the front of the hospital in the parking lot and had to worry about her own recovery instead of mine. Despite her promises to watch over me after surgery. She always used her illness daily as an excuse to make me do things…like grab a Coke for her from ten fridge cause she couldn’t get out of the chair.
So the next time you talk to a survivor – – congratulate them on accomplishing something brave and powerful. But don’t let it define who they are. All survivors are stronger than their diseases – even if they die from the horribleness of that disease.